New York City, with its reputation as America's most magnetic, cosmopolitan and urbane welcoming center, arguably dazzles more in winter than in any other season.
In summer, there is heat. In autumn, there are crowds catching the fresh Broadway openings. Spring is nice, but winter in New York is magical.
Radio City Music Hall, on Sixth Avenue and 50th Street, is still as popular at Christmas as it was in your granny's day, with its colored-light displays and the high-kicking Rockettes. But this annual Christmas show has gone high-tech with a 3-D ride through the city on Santa's sleigh as one of the biggest hits.
And don't miss the gargantuan Christmas tree and ice rink down the street at Rockefeller Center. The tree, which came from outside Trenton, will be lit each night until 11:30; for 24 hours on Christmas; and until 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Look up 72 feet and see the 10-foot, 550-pound Swarovski crystal star that's decorated with 25,000 crystals.
The New York City Ballet still offers George Balanchine's Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and the Apollo Theater in Harlem still holds its Amateur Nights, the likes of which presented Ella Fitzgerald and other talents to the world.
Visitors can expect to pay top dollar for attractions in the Big Apple, such as $75 to $240 to see one of the final Broadway performances of Hairspray at the Neil Simon Theater, which ends its six-year run on Jan. 4. Or to pay $94 to more than $400 for the Metropolitan Opera performance of Tristan und Isolde at Lincoln Center on Friday and on Dec. 16 and 20.
But there are discounts available to seniors - just ask about them at box offices around the city. Museums throughout the five boroughs - Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island - cater to seniors 62 and older with discounts that can add up to a nice savings.
Get a $2 senior discount off the $12 admission for the Jewish Museum to see some of the Dead Sea Scrolls through Jan. 4. Then save $5 off the $20 charge to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to see "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy" - 150 objects such as jewelry, wedding portraits and paintings dating from about 1400 to the mid-16th century.
Some opera companies and orchestral and chamber music groups have sales on what are called "rush" tickets, which are sold the day of the event. Call the ticket office several hours before a performance and ask about them. Group rates for seniors may also be available.
For Broadway shows, same-day discounts of up to 50 percent are available at three TKTS stands, at Times Square, the South Street Seaport, and in Brooklyn at Jay Street and the Myrtle Street Promenade. Or, to avoid waiting in line, go to www.nytix.com/Links/Broadway/listofcurrentshows.html, where you can buy discounted tickets through a monthly membership: $4 for Broadway shows, $3 for TV show tickets, $3 for comedy clubs, or $7 for all.
For the most complete information about New York City, check its official tourism Web site, www.nycvisit.com. You can find out about hotels, dining, shopping, nightlife, arts and entertainment, sports, and special offers.
One of the most enjoyable days that a visitor can spend during the Christmas season costs nothing except shoe leather. It is a stroll along Fifth Avenue and adjacent streets to see the spectacular window displays of such famous stores as Macy's, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Lord & Taylor.
If you want to cover more of the city in a short time, take a bus or boat tour.
In 51/2 hours, OnBoard New York City will stop at Times Square, the World Trade Center site, the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street, St. Paul's Chapel, Trinity Church, the World Financial Center, Federal Hall, Madison Square Park, the Flatiron Building, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, NBC's Today show set, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Central Park, the Dakota building, and the Canyon of Heroes. All for $62.49 per person.
Circle Line's three-hour, full-island cruise costs seniors 62 and older $26, which is $5 off the standard adult price.